Foundation S1E5 — “Upon Awakening”

A figure climbs into a boat at night, the rings of Synnax glowing in the background

The following contains spoilers through Foundation S1E5, “Upon Awakening,” on Apple TV+, and also references the Foundation series novels.

Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Episode 5, “Upon Awakening.” No Empire this week, as we trade the Cleons out to make room for Gaal to return to the story, past and present. Also, hardly any movement on our laundry list of mysteries that we discussed last week. Overall, this is certainly the weakest episode of the season thus far, though leaving us on a mild cliffhanger for the end of the first half of the season.

They have a real economy of props going on the show, many of which saw their payoff in this episode. The glass eye turned EMP bomb. The knife turned pass key. The sundial turned weapon. I can’t say that I saw any of those coming. Seems like everything that gets mentioned finds a use somewhere down the road. This episode’s contribution would be the Chekhov’s casket that Hari himself designed (wink, wink).

Foundation S1E5 - The Seer priestess looking smug in the foreground, Instructor Sorn stands blurry in the background
The Seer priestess owns the moment


Once again, we get another “short film” at the beginning of this episode. This time filling us in on the background of Gaal’s life on Synnax before her departure. I won’t go so far as to call this “filler” material, but it sure seems like extraneous information that we probably could have lived without. The resonant message of ecological doom was certainly pounded home, which was probably more so the driving factor than giving us the scoop on Gaal.

That said, there were a few takeaways of interest:

  • There actually is a reasonable story to how she got ahold of Kalle’s “Ninth Proof of Folding” on this backwater (literally) planet.
  • We now understand her father’s restrained hug at her departure.
  • We find out that she voluntarily rejected her prayer stones in defiance.

We also get an impression of the Seers’ limited mentalic capabilities, as they initially know someone from the planet entered the math competition, then slowly narrow it down to someone from Gaal’s village.

One minor question that comes to mind throughout is whether her parents were truly devout, or just doing what they had to do to protect their family. They were apparently academics themselves before the Purge, friends and colleagues of Instructor Sorn. Yet they hardly glance in his direction at the execution, instead fawning over their daughter being at the center of the ceremony, as if it were just another baby baptism. Either way, I’m afraid these are not really good people.

Foundation S1E5 - Phara, smiling wildly, holds Salvor prisoner, looking up in disbelief
The Anacreon victory lights up the night sky


The story on Terminus pretty much plays out with very little in the way of surprises. In fact, in the official companion podcast, David S. Goyer and fellow writer Leigh Dana Jackson even comment on how these middle episodes pretty much wrote themselves based on the strong characterizations that had already been established in the prior episodes. For the most part, maybe excepting Salvor, everyone is just reacting.

With the arrival of the Empire ship, the dominoes start falling, one by one. Too late, Salvor finally sees part of what she had been missing, and deduces why Phara has been angling to get to the tower all along. The fence is brought down, the Anacreons attack, the jump ship is drawn in, and boom! The Empire is struck back against.

Of course, this is still not the Grand Huntress’ final game plan. Salvor’s mother tells her that Phara needs the crew manifest from the Deliverance. Phara tries to brush this off with a claim that they attacked the Foundation in order to commandeer an Empire ship. Given that they blew up said ship, that was probably a lie. So why the manifest from 30 years ago? If they are looking for someone in particular, they might want to call off the full-scale massacre going on below.

Gaal (back to screen and slightly off camera) views Raych on screen looking right at her
Raych says his goodbyes to Gaal


Gaal’s life pod is brought onto a ghost ship, with no one else aboard except an extremely uncooperative computer. This bureaucratic Hal 9000 won’t provide her any direct information, but she has access to Galactic public records and is able to fill in more than a few details for both herself and us. She’s has been adrift for 34 years and 223 days. So Gaal’s timeline is now in line with the other timelines, which is nice. Hari did indeed die (well…we’ll see) and Raych confessed to the murder, trying to keep her out of it.

Watching the video record of his final words, Raych speaks directly to Gaal across space and time, trying to reassure her that she can still solve the puzzle without his particular puzzle piece. However, watching his subsequent execution, it’s all too much for her. Like a faithful Juliet to his Romeo, she finds a scalpel and settles in under a running shower, preparing to end it all. It’s always water with Gaal.

All thoughts of suicide vanish though as the ship presents her with a new puzzle to solve. A course correction has been initiated as they approach their planned destination. Lots of missing pieces to this puzzle, as the computer continues to purposely withhold sensor information from her, even to the point of screening what she can see out the view port. But it’s all “simple visual navigation” to Gaal, and after a quick pop out the airlock, she finally outsmarts the stupid computer and figures out their destination: Helicon.

Upon return from her spacewalk, she finds herself totally alone again. Having reached their destination, the computer seems to be gone. In its place though, Gaal finds a holographic Hari Seldon gasping in a pool of virtual blood.

An imperial jump ship is crashing into the ground and beginning to explode on impact
Personal shields–check, town shields–check, ship shields–not so much

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • So now we understand why Raych tossed the knife in with Gaal in the life pod. She was supposed to be left behind and completely clear of the murder, and Raych was would take the life pod out to Helicon solo. When Gaal showed up in Hari’s quarters, Raych panicked and thought she could get blamed now if she were left behind (which was probably correct, based on Lewis’ line of questioning). So he traded places with her, knowing she would be smart enough to figure things out when she got there. He literally gave his life for hers.
  • Do starships regularly make such abrupt “trajectory correction maneuvers” without warning the human occupants?
  • Raych is repeatedly referred to as “Raych Foss” in this episode and, indeed, he is also referred to as such in the IMDb cast list. Which seems to imply that in this adaptation, Hari did not adopt Raych as he did in the novels. He treated him like a son, but did not make it official. Not sure why they would make that particular tweak, except perhaps to provide him some distance since he was scripted to murder Hari.
  • Hari was killed in 12068 EI (Era Imperial). The Deliverance was decommissioned in 12072 EI. And it is currently 12102. More or less in tune with the timeline of a 5-year journey to Terminus and “now” being 30 years after their arrival.
  • A “dark star” is essentially what is better known as a black hole, although there are maybe some differentiating technicalities that I admittedly do not understand. Nonetheless, you wouldn’t want to park your planet in orbit around one, I’m thinking.
  • Salvor’s mother is worried that she meant it when she told Phara she felt no “invisible cord” between them. Further confirmation to me that Salvor is adopted.
  • The five or six Warden’s deputies, plus Hugo, seem to be holding up amazingly well against the 200 or more armed Anacreon soldiers. Given there were initially 5000 members of the Foundation, it will take them a while to kill every last armed scientist.
  • Hari offers to support Gaal, but he’s really looking for her to support him.
  • Despite everything, Gaal is still a devout follower of the Seer religion. She even thanks the Sleeper after viewing Hari’s message.
  • Ah, the old smuggle in an EMP bomb in your fake eye trick. A classic.
  • Instructor Sorn’s lesson for Gaal is much the same as Hari’s. After destruction, rebirth. Furthering knowledge is noble work. Knowledge will get them through the dark times. He even tries to give her essentially the exact same book, saving it from a library that will be destroyed.

Best lines of the episode:

  • “When a planet wants you dead, you die.”
  • “It is ingenious, elegant, and true. Bravo, Miss Dornick.”
  • “Trantor? The machine world? I’d rather my daughter die.”
  • “Authorization required.”
  • “You underestimate the rest of us, Warden. We all bear Anacreon scars.”
  • “I’ll be damned. They actually showed up.”
  • “He thinks we’re a planet of simple minded rustics.”
  • “He saved you. As he would have saved us all.”
  • “You can still solve a puzzle, even with a piece missing.”
  • “I’m going to outsmart you, you stupid ship.”
  • “I know this is personal for some of you, and that means it’s personal for all of us.”
  • “Does it hurt any less? Your brother, your family?”
Hari lies on the floor trying to rise up, blood all over his shirt
Hologram Hari

In the News

Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week (or so) related to Foundation:

  • Deadline (and several other venues) simultaneously announced last Thursday that Apple TV+ had renewed Foundation for a second season. Which is weird, because we already knew that from some source that I can no longer recollect because it happened so long ago. The article does include some nice, current quotes on the global reception of the series so far from Apple’s head of programming, showrunner David S. Goyer, and co-executive producer Robyn Asimov. Goyer indicates that Hober Mallow will be introduced in next season, which gives us an idea of the end point for this season. Robyn Asimov is very happy with the series, but more importantly, she sends a clear message to her father’s fans that he understood full well that his words would need “cinematic translation” and that the series is “introducing his work to a vast array of new readers.” That should be a win for even the most cantankerous book fans.
  • Collider had a long one-on-one interview with Goyer, in which they talk about the renewal and long term plans for the show, of course. But if I’m being honest, the thing that got me to click on it was the tease that the interviewer also snuck in a few questions about Netflix’s The Sandman, which Goyer is also producing. He’s stays tight lipped unfortunately, but he does say that it is a “very truthful adaptation.” And Asimov fans all over the world just rolled their eyes.
  • The Indian newspaper The Hindu interviews Kubbra Sait (Phara Keaen) about her experience playing the “extremist leader.” She joyfully reveals that she got to keep the eye, and talks about how she and Leah Harvey (Salvor Hardin) bonded through the initial hiring process, from screen-test to getting the job.

On this week’s official companion podcast (for Episode 4), show runner David S. Goyer was joined by writer Leigh Dana Jackson (who goes by Dana). This week’s episode was particularly worth listening to, as they go into depth about the relationship between the three Cleons (a dysfunctional family of son, father, and grandfather, as they put it), and other inside aspects that I found really interesting. As always, there were a few tidbits worth passing on in case you weren’t interesting in listening directly:

  • Goyer describes teen Brother Dawn as being 18-19 years old. I sometimes wonder if he is purposely playing the role of unreliable narrator with his dates and time spans. There have been several references that were just a little bit off here and there.
  • The Brother Dawn storyline will take a surprising turn later in the season. He has a secret from his “father” and “grandfather.”
  • I did not notice this myself, but Goyer points out that as he was sketching Azura, Dawn switched hands when Shadow Master Obrecht showed up. Must mean something, but I have no idea what yet. As Goyer put it, “something’s off about this kid.”
  • Dawn is worried he won’t become Day. Day is worried he will become Dusk.
  • They gave some preview information about Luminism that we will no doubt find out in the next episode. The religion is a matriarchy, the opposite of Empire’s patriarchy. More shocking and interesting though is this thought, “Demerzel, who’s a robot, is religious. And is an adherent of this faith.”
  • They think of the Anacreons as “space elves.”
  • Phara’s bow is the same one that was presented to Empire in Episode 1. It will have a story of its own through the rest of the season.
  • Salvor’s coin is a totem to help her focus her “intuition.”
  • The “cats” side of the Trantorian coin is a Bishop’s Claw (which they admit makes no sense, but was done simply because it was cool).

That’s all for this week. Please let us know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Foundation throughout Season 1 and beyond.

All images courtesy of Apple TV+

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

One Comment

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  1. Regarding the coin, though the cats side was said to not have meaning I think we can find one.

    Crowns = Emporers, Trantor, absolute urbanization, center of power, possibly center of culture.

    Cats = Bishop’s Claws, periphery, probably least inhabited, maybe most rural, and so have the least power or cultural influence in the Empire.

    Together = the coin represents the entirety and breadth of the Empire, valued everywhere, and in a way represents that the Empire also is valued everywhere.

    In the books, as the Empire is falling apart, even in the central regions important people issue currency backed by their own estates, and at least one claims his currency is more reliable than the Empire’s. This suggests the trust and value placed in the Empire itself has diminished greatly.

    So, I think this is an interpretation that fits both the concepts involved as well as future events (from the books).

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